Inside The Spinning Mind Of Chart-Topping Electronic Music Producer & DJ Steve Aoki

Steve Aoki is not only a Grammy-nominated electronic dance music superstar, founder of the record label Dim Mak and chart-topping producer-remixer-DJ, but now he can add author and comic book writer to his ever-growing list of accomplishments.

Despite growing up in the restaurant industry (his father Rocky Aoki founded the popular Japanese restaurant chain Benihana), music has been his passion ever since he was a young child. Today, Aoki is one of the most respected and highest paid DJs, has his own clothing brand, and recently released his first-ever memoir.

Aoki kicks off opening weekend at Big Night Live at the Hub on Causeway on Saturday. We caught up recently with the legendary visionary to find out what inspires him, who his dream collaboration would be with and which venue is his favorite to perform.

You have a record label, numerous endorsements and are one of the highest paid DJs coming from a family in the restaurant business. When did you first become interested in pursuing a career in music?

I wouldn’t call it a career in the beginning because when I was a kid music is just what intrigued me. When I was 14 or 15, I joined a band and learned how to record. That was a big passion. I was a musician before being a producer. They are all instrumental tools to learning how to become a performer. Being a DJ came later. When I was a kid, the restaurant industry wasn’t my calling. It wasn’t my passion; my passion was music. I always thought I would be in a band. It has been a natural progression for me to jump into F&B; it was an innate calling. After I invested in a few restaurants and had an understanding how it operates, it was then I realized that I got back into it because I didn’t realize I had. It was a natural progression for me. It’s exciting to be able to extend my interest to different interests.

Would you say through your travels you have been inspired to create new sounds by experiencing new cultures?

Absolutely. I think that’s where my global archive of music is based off of. I love to meet up with singers and producers in different countries and get in the studio with those people and make music. It’s an exciting challenge. My intro is about the Neon Future. The second song is an ode to Japanese culture. The third song is an Italian classic; the fourth is a sample from Brazil, and the list goes on and on. It’s a really incredible time in music, working in different languages and cultures, and I am just so lucky to be a part of it.

Photo Credit: Steve Aoki

Over the years, you have been part of many impressive collaborations, including your most recent release with the Backstreet Boys. Who would you say would be your dream collaboration?

I’d say my dream is to be in the studio with Elon Musk. Since my album series, I have thought outside the box in terms of collaborations that are with people who are not necessarily musicians.

What do you credit your successful longevity to?

The most important part is mindset. I make an active decision to treat myself as an athlete. Each show is like a little competition. I’m an athlete in the long distance running business. How do you survive mentally and physically? You have to treat your body and mind. I meditate, eat healthy and work my brain out by reading, doing brain game puzzles and playing chess. I need to have that clarity; I need to be focused and have that discipline. The best part about this job is that it doesn’t feel like one. When you come to my party, I want you to have the best time. I am going to raise that energy level inside you. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to make that happen.

Photo Credit: Steve Aoki

You even have your own sci-fi comic book series. How did that opportunity came about?

The Neon Future concept really belongs in illustrative form. It’s a story of the future, where we’re going, a utopia that only exists with humanity and technology. These are concepts that deserve and belong in a comic book. It all stems from my music; it was calling for a comic book. We have done six issues and just released the paperback arc of the Neon Future story. It’s very exciting, not just to see it on paper, but to watch the reaction.

This weekend, you’ll be performing at Big Night Live in Boston. How does it feel returning to the city?

I’m excited about that. Boston is one of my favorite crowds in America. One of my favorite venues in the entire country to play is the House of Blues in Boston. There are three floors and it’s a really powerful room for the size; it feels like an arena. I have a pretty solid fan base in Boston. The dance community in Boston knows great music. I think Big Night Live is going to be an incredible venue.

Photo Credit: Steve Aoki

It doesn’t seem like you have any plans of slowing down. This year alone, you have played more than 200 shows. What keeps you going?

Connecting with different people who come to my show. I can feel their energy, attention and love for being there. That alone, I know the crowd without having to speak a word. That’s what make me pinch myself – to be able to create something that affects someone’s life in such a way that they pay for a ticket, drive however long they do to get to your show and be there and experience that with you. That’s why I do what I do; it’s a cyclical feeling of energy and love that never dies.

So, what’s up next for you?

I just finished my first book (Blue: The Color of Noise) which was a big accomplishment. It took six years to put it all down. Also, my new album, “Neon Future IV,” will be coming out in the first quarter of 2020. It is a heavy collaborative project with lots of different artists.

Photo Credit: Steve Aoki

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